As the final seconds wound down in double overtime of Game 7 in the 1957 NBA championship at Boston Garden, Jim Loscutoff stepped to the foul line.
The rugged 6-foot-5 forward, who was known as “Jungle Jim” for his physique and intimidating presence, sank a free throw that gave the Celtics their final point and helped clinch the 125-123 victory over the St. Louis Hawks for Boston’s first title.
Boston’s first-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon in 1955, Mr. Loscutoff played nine seasons with the Celtics and was part of seven NBA championships. In his honor, the name “Loscy” was raised to the rafters at the Garden in 1977 and is displayed on a banner with the retired numbers of Celtics greats. “This is the proudest moment of my life,” a teary-eyed Mr. Loscutoff said at the ceremony.
Mr. Loscutoff, a successful basketball coach at Boston State College and a founder with his wife, Lynn, of the family-operated Camp Evergreen in Andover, died Tuesday in Lahey Clinic in Burlington of complications of pneumonia and Parkinson’s disease. He was 85 and had lived in Andover for more than 50 years and wintered in Naples, Fla.
“Loscy came to us just at the right time,” said Celtics legend Bob Cousy. “Our greatest need was rebounding, someone to help fuel our transition game, and he was the first cog, followed by Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Russell. And he was a lot of fun to be around.”
In December 1955, during his rookie year, Mr. Loscutoff set a Celtics record with 26 rebounds in a 94-81 win over the visiting Hawks. Russell later broke that record. “Time and again Loscutoff, showing and using plenty of muscle and hustle, fought his way off the boards with the ball,” the Globe reported.
That performance came as no surprise to Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who chose Mr. Loscutoff after taking the pre-draft advice of former Celtic Bob Donham, an assistant coach at the University of Washington. Donham told the Globe in 1955 that “without doubt” Mr. Loscutoff “is the best prospect for pro ball on the [West] Coast.”
Mr. Loscutoff, who still holds Oregon’s single game record with 32 rebounds, was known for his physical style of play and always having his teammates’ backs.
In an April 1962 playoff game at the Garden against Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia Warriors, Mr. Loscutoff was part of a free-for-all that included fans and police after teammate Carl Braun was sucker-punched by Philadelphia guard Guy Rodgers. By the time order was restored, Rodgers had picked up a stool to defend himself against Mr. Loscutoff, and Sam Jones had done likewise to fend off Chamberlain.
Even after Chamberlain was awarded a foul shot, “tempers still were hot when Loscutoff charged Rodgers under the basket, and Guy gave him a little nudge sending him flying through the steel uprights,” the Globe reported. “Jim picked himself up like an enraged bull and charged at Rodgers who fortunately fell down or he might have landed in the balcony.”
Mr. Loscutoff told the Globe in 1972 that Auerbach never sent him into a game for the specific purpose of “getting a man.”
“He let me use my own discretion,” Mr. Loscutoff recalled. “I didn’t look for trouble. I never backed away from any, either.”
Cousy said Mr. Loscutoff had a “pretty good” shooting touch “and as far as I was concerned he would have been a more frequent option if not for so many Hall of Famers that I could pass to. Especially on the road, in an era when the NBA was a lot more physical, Loscy made our lives a lot easier.”
Heinsohn and Mr. Loscutoff were roommates on road trips.
“He loved basketball, he loved life and he loved to laugh, and he was one heck of a coach at Boston State,” Heinsohn said. “I was living in Worcester when Boston State played Worcester State. It was the first time I saw Boston State play and Loscy coached a perfect game.”
An inductee to the University of Massachusetts Boston/Boston State Athletic Hall of Fame, Mr. Loscutoff was a professor of physical education at both schools. He compiled a 219-92 record from 1964-76 and wrapped up his time on the bench with back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
“Jim was critical to making our merger with Boston State in 1982 an athletic success,” said UMass Boston athletic director Charlie Titus, who recalled trips with Mr. Loscutoff and other basketball buddies to the NCAA Final Four. “He was a great recruiter who related to his players and they played hard for him. And students loved taking his classes.”
Born in San Francisco, Mr. Loscutoff attended junior college in Sacramento before playing one season at Oregon.
Drafted into the Army, he served three years and played basketball for the Fort Ord team. In 1953, he met Lynn Leon at a dance and they married a year later, after he was discharged. He returned to Oregon and in his final season led the Ducks in scoring (19.6 points per game) and rebounding (17.2 per game).
“When he was drafted by the Celtics, we flew to Boston and the reporters wanted to find out what Jim’s plans were,” recalled his wife, an artist and author who published “Loscy and Me,” a scrapbook memoir. “Red Auerbach yelled at the reporters to ‘Get the hell out of here,’ and before we knew what happened, Jim was signed, sealed, and delivered for a $500 bonus and an $8,000 contract.”
Mrs. Loscutoff said Auerbach did not allow wives to accompany his players on road trips “so I went on a lot of them on my own.”
An all-around athlete, Mr. Loscutoff supplemented his income years ago as an assistant golf pro at Unicorn in Stoneham and as partners with former Celtics trainer Buddy
LeRoux at a driving range in Lynnfield. Mr. Loscutoff’s playing career was shortened by injuries to his knee and back.
“Red worked hard with him during those comebacks and even wanted him to play another year or two, but the opportunity to coach at Boston State came up, and we started Camp Evergreen and all our children and grandchildren have been involved with it,” said his wife, who lived with Mr. Loscutoff in a 350-year-old house on the camp property.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Loscutoff leaves his son, James of Andover; two daughters, Holly Randall of Rockport and Carol Hoyt of Malibu, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 21 in South Church in Andover.
“My dad was definitely a gentle giant,” said his son, who is nicknamed Little Jim and is director of Camp Evergreen. “His zest for life and his spirit made the camp a success and enriched the lives of thousands of children.”Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.